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  • Family Court rejects request for girl, 4, to be returned to late mother's family in Australia
  • Courier Mail
  • 18/12/2013 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: Bewitched ( 20 articles in 2013 )
A FOUR-year-old girl who lost her mother to mesothelioma has been caught up in a bitter family struggle to raise her, pitting her maternal family against her only surviving parent.

The girl lost her mother to the deadly asbestos-related illness in 2011, leaving behind an estate worth up to $1.4 million.

According the Family Court of Australia, the inheritance was put in a trust account to be controlled by the mother's cousin and a friend.

But the mother's ex-husband has made a claim for the money, sparking a legal wrangle which is now headed for a showdown in The Netherlands.

The little girl's father staked his claim in 2012 on behalf of his daughter, but fled to The Netherlands with her without notice during the court case.

The toddler's maternal family, including grandparents aged in their 80s, have been waiting for a year for the Family Court of Australia to intervene.

But after a lengthy delay, the court has knocked back their request, despite the mother's dying wish for her cousin, who is a mother-of-three, to be legal guardian to the little girl.

The maternal family want to spend time with the girl and be involved in her life after helping to raise her when her parents' marriage broke down in the lead-up to her mother's death.

The little girl was conceived in 2008 during a brief period of remission, but by the time the mother died she had cut her ex-husband out of her will.

In a recently delivered judgment, Justice Victoria Bennett urged the families to mediate in the best interests of the girl, who has not seen her maternal family for a year.

"Two years ago the child lost her mother," Justice Bennett said.

"It is nearly a year since the child left Australia. I am sensitive to the tragedy of the mother's death for all concerned and acknowledge that the maternal family has a perspective which is different from the father's perspective.

"However it seems to me that the child's interests will not be advanced, particularly in relation to her maternal family, unless all of the adults concerned can recast their perspective to focus entirely on the child's future."

The judge's finding that the girl's "habitual residence" is in The Netherlands leaves Australia with no power to make parenting orders.

Justice Bennett said she could only make orders if she was "invited" to by Dutch authorities.

In any case, she was not satisfied Australia was better placed to assess the child's best interest.

"This court will not have jurisdiction to make orders in relation to the child unless or until there is a transfer of jurisdiction to it or the child is physically present in Australia."


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